Elephant trekking is a rare experience outside Myanmar
Aung Kyaw Tha
ELEPHANT trekking is a popular holiday and
recreational activity around the world. In Myanmar, there are six places
where elephant-trekking facilities are available for tourists as
well as for local people.
For a long elephant trek, Myaing Hay Wun Elephant
Research Camp, Hu Kaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Alaungtaw Kathapa
National Park, and Sein Ye Camp are accessible for tourists. As
for short elephant trekking, there are two, Hlawka Park and Yangon
Zoological Gardens in Yangon. Elephant trekking in Wildlife Sanctuaries
and National Parks has been carried out with the cooperation of the
Ministry of Forestry and private tour companies. Supreme Services
Team (SST) company limited joint ventures with Ministry of Forestry
and serving tourists with elephant trekking in Myaing Hay Wun Elephant
Research Camp, Hu Kaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary and in Alaungtaw
Kathapa National Park.
"Myaing Hay Wun Elephant Research Camp is situated
in Taikkyi Township of Yangon Division. There are 32 domesticated
elephants in the camp and about 200 feral elephants are in the wild
around the camp," said U Thet Zaw Naing of SST. "We give three services,
elephant trekking, elephant entertainment – elephant dancing – and
tourists can also observe the elephant research work conducted by
forestry personnel," he said. Myaing Hay Wun Elephant Research Camp
sits on 10 acres only 72 miles away from downtown Yangon. It was established
as an Elephant Training Station in 1986.
Hu Kaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary was established
as Wildlife Sanctuary in 1999. Its area is 6460 square kilometres.
It is situated in Ta Naing Township in Kachin State. "The significance
of elephant trekking in Hu Kaung is that almost every household
of Ta Naing Township has its own elephant, tour companies hire privately-owned
elephants for trekking, in other sites, tour companies hire forestry
ministry’s elephants," he said. Located in Sagaing Division, Alaungtaw
Kathapa National Park was established in 1989. It has an area of
1600 square kilometres.
U Win Aung, chairman of Woodland Travels company
told Myanmar Times that Europeans and Japanese are very much
interested in elephants in the wild and elephant trekking because
there are no wild elephants in their countries. Elephants in nature
can only be found in Asia and Africa. "In Asia, Myanmar is one of
the countries where elephants in the wild can be found. But in our
neighbouring country Thailand, tourists cannot find elephants in
the wild," he said.
There are about 4000 domesticated elephants in Myanmar.
As of elephant trekking, tourists are always interested in how the
elephants are tamed and taught to pull logs, how they push logs
from slopes to the creeks, he said. "Another thing tourists are
interested in is the lifestyle of elephant mahouts," he added. In
Myanmar, domesticated elephants are freed to the wild for food after
a day’s work and elephant mahouts take back their respective elephants
"Tourists would like to know how elephant mahouts
take back their elephants," he said. This is one of the reasons
tourists want elephant trekking. "Another significant aspect of
elephant trekking in Myanmar is that it is the only country in the
world which has wild elephants near the capital city – within one
and half hours’ drive from Yangon, that is Myaing Hay Wun Elephant
Research Camp," he said. Woodland Travels company has elephant trekking
in Sein Ye camp in Taungoo Township and Alaungtaw Kathapa National
Park in Sagaing Division. "You can enjoy short elephant treks in Hlawka
Park, in Min-galar-don Township and at Yangon Zoological Gardens,"